The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is heading to Palm Springs.
It was announced Tuesday The Thermal Club will host North America’s premier open-wheel championship Feb. 2-3 with an Open Test ahead of the 2023 season.
There has been roughly $260 million invested in the private, world-class facility, with the groundwork finished on its first track – South Palm – on May 13, 2012. And in a unique set of circumstances, there are ties to Roger Penske.
SEE: NTT INDYCAR SERIES To Host Open Test at The Thermal Club
“Before we laid down any of the track, we called Mr. Penske and said, 'Hey, what do you think of this?' And he said, 'Well, send me the layout,'” said John Rogers, managing director of The Thermal Club, son of circuit owners Tim and Twanna Rogers.
“And we sent him the layout, and I think he ran the CAD through a simulation program. He helped us with the design, in addition to the architects. With his changes, we laid down the track. That was around 2010, somewhere in there. He helped us make it exciting for all cars, sports cars, Indy cars, open wheel, all that stuff.”
According to Rogers, the idea to host the NTT INDYCAR SERIES picked up steam after he was connected with Penske Entertainment President and CEO Mark Miles and INDYCAR President Jay Frye during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend in April.
The Thermal Club also features two other tracks, the North Palm and Desert Palm. The drivers and teams of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will knock off the offseason rust on a linked North and South Palm layout, with a carousel, chicane, esses, long straights and a triple-right turn helping comprise the 17-turn, 2.9-mile circuit. Named “Professional Motorsport Facility of the Year” at the 2017 Professional Motorsports World Expo in Germany, the track is upgrading its barriers, triple guardrails and runoff areas as part of earning the required FIA Grade 2 safety certification (expected by January 2023).
“When we first started, we told prospective members: 'Hey, we hope to build three tracks, but we're going build one. We'll make sure you have a place to have breakfast and lunch,'” Rogers said. “We did it out of a tent to start with and we said, 'Hey, our intent is to build a clubhouse and to build a tuning shop and to build and build and build and build.' Members liked what they were seeing, liked what was happening; prospective members liked what they were seeing, liked what was happening, so they bought.”
And there are no plans of slowing down.
“In the next two years, we've got another 2.5 miles that we will be building,” he added. “It will be a road track and it will also be an oval, so we'll have both.”
There will be some familiarity for some drivers at the test next February as the likes of Conor Daly, Graham Rahal, JR Hildebrand, Pato O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, Simona De Silvestro and Stefan Wilson have pounded the pavement at the circuit at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains.
Rogers, who has watched a variety of cars and drivers grind out laps at The Thermal Club, already has a few items on his checklist that he is intrigued to witness come February.
“I will be really looking at how they take in the triple-right and chicane and then really how they manage the esses because there's a lot of time to be gained or lost in that triple-right,” Rogers said. “For the esses, you have to be bold because it's a carousel left and then it's a dip while you're turning to the right and then a left and then a right and then a left, immediately. And they're all high speed where the downforce is absolutely coming into play. If that somehow gets screwed up, the car's going to get light in a high-speed turn, which could be interesting.”